Big Ten: Jordan Hil

It's awards season in Hollywood, as the film industry lines up to congratulate itself again and again until we're all sick of it before the Oscars.

But, hey, some performances do need recognition. With that in mind, we're listing the Top 10 individual performances by Big Ten players from the 2012 season today. Degree of difficulty is a factor here, so we'll reward those players who shined against tough opponents over those who piled up stats vs. cupcakes. And, ideally, the performance came in a victory for the player's team.

Enough with the intro. A drum roll, please, for our Top 10:

10. Penn State's Michael Mauti vs. Illinois: Mauti was very vocal with his displeasure at Illinois' attempt to poach Nittany Lions players last summer. The senior linebacker backed up his words with six tackles and a pair of interceptions, including a 99-yard return to end the first half. He came up inches short of a touchdown on that pick but definitely proved his point.

9. Ohio State's John Simon vs. Wisconsin: In what would turn out to be his final college game, the Buckeyes defensive end went out with a bang against the Badgers in Madison. He had four sacks, which set a school record and were the most by a Big Ten player since Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan registered four vs. Michigan in 2010.

8. Ohio State's Braxton Miller vs. Michigan State: Miller had better statistical days than the one he turned in against the Spartans, but none were grittier. Hit over and over again, he somehow kept answering the bell and finished with 136 hard-earned rushing yards and 179 passing yards in Ohio State's 17-16 road win. Teammates said after the game that their quarterback was in a tremendous amount of pain, but he earned he even more respect from them.

7. Northwestern's Kain Colter vs. Indiana: Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald sprung a surprise on the Hoosiers by repeatedly lining Colter up at receiver. Colter caught nine passes for 131 yards and also ran for 161 yards and four touchdowns on just 14 carries.

6. Penn State's Matt McGloin and Allen Robinson vs. Indiana: We're cheating a bit here by including both players, but it's hard to separate the two from this record-setting performance. McGloin shredded the Hoosiers' defense for 395 passing yards and four touchdowns, while Robinson was as usual the main recipient of his throws. The sophomore grabbed 10 catches for 197 yards and three scores in the best day for a Big Ten receiver in 2012.

5. Michigan's Denard Robinson vs. Air Force: How's this for an individual feat: Robinson accounted for more than 100 percent of his team's offense vs. the Falcons, a statistical oddity we may not see again any time soon. He totaled 426 yards -- 218 rushing, 208 passing -- while a couple of late kneel downs left Michigan's team total for the day at 422. Robinson also scored four touchdowns in the 31-25 win.

4. Michigan's Devin Gardner vs. Iowa: In just his second start at quarterback, Gardner wrote his name in the Michigan record books. He accounted for six touchdowns -- three passing, three rushing -- in becoming the first Wolverines quarterback to do that since Steve Smith in 1983. He also threw for 314 yards and let everyone know Robinson wasn't getting his old job back.

3. Wisconsin's Montee Ball vs. Purdue: Ball finished his career with all sorts of NCAA and school records, but he never had as many rushing yards as he did in West Lafayette this fall. He ran for 247 yards on 29 carries and and scored three times to establish himself as the Big Ten's all-time leader in touchdowns.

2. Nebraska's Taylor Martinez vs. Northwestern: Martinez's best statistical showing came in the opener against Southern Miss (354 passing yards, five TDs), but that was against a team that finished 0-12. His signature performance was in the comeback win at Northwestern. He threw for 342 yards and three scores and ran for another touchdown while leading two 75-plus yard scoring drives in the final six minutes. Of course, he also threw two passes in the fourth quarter that should have been intercepted, but that's just part of the ride with Martinez.

1. Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell vs. Boise State: In just the second game of the season featuring a Big Ten team, Bell set a bar that could not be cleared. He was Superman against the Broncos, rushing for 210 yards and two touchdowns on 44 carries and catching six passes for 55 yards. The unbelievable 50 touches in the opener was both a testament to Bell's strength and a flashing red warning sign of Michigan State's dearth of playmakers.

Honorable mention: Bell vs. Minnesota and TCU; Miller vs. California; Ball and James White vs. Nebraska in the Big Ten title game; Robinson vs. Purdue; Ohio State's Ryan Shazier vs. Penn State; Ohio State's Carlos Hyde vs. Nebraska; Indiana's Cody Latimer vs. Iowa; Penn State's Jordan Hill vs. Wisconsin; Northwestern's Venric Mark vs. Minnesota; Michigan's Jeremy Gallon vs. South Carolina; Iowa's Mark Weisman vs. Central Michigan; Minnesota's Michael Carter vs. Purdue and Texas Tech; Purdue's Kawann Short vs. Notre Dame.

Penn State spring game recap

April, 23, 2012
There were three spring games in the Big Ten over the weekend, and we're going to break down all of them over the course of the day. First up is Penn State.

You can find coverage of the Nittany Lions' spring game here, here, here and here.

Star of the game: Freshman defensive end Brad Bars had four tackles for loss, including two sacks. Bill Belton rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown for the offense.

How it went down: Fans got their first glimpse of the new era of Penn State football as the defense beat the offense 77-65 in the Beaver Stadium debut of head coach Bill O'Brien. A crowd estimated at 60,000 turned out for the game, which used a modified scoring system.

No doubt most people were curious to see how the quarterback competition was going and how those guys looked in the new offense. The results were, predictably, mixed. Matt McGloin completed 6 of 13 passes for 105 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Rob Bolden went 7-of-14 but had three interceptions. Paul Jones was 6-of-15 for 113 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.

"We've asked them to learn a system that's totally different than anything they've ever learned, and that takes time," O'Brien said. "And different guys learn at different rates. Some guys get it right away, other guys get it the next day, other guys get it two days from now. So we have to let it soak a little bit, let it soak for ourselves as a staff, and then we'll make a decision headed into training camp on who we're going with or who the top two are."

O'Brien said that fans saw 10 percent of his offensive playbook on Saturday.

"I understand the offense they've given us so far," McGloin said. "[O'Brien] has thrown the whole playbook at us, and we've run a million things in practice and we understand it very well. It's an exciting offense and it's going to take the whole summer to learn, but once we get it down it's going to be very fun to watch us play."

Not surprisingly, the Nittany Lions' defense looked ahead of the offense. It forced five total interceptions and had eight sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Defensive end C.J. Olaniyan had three of those sacks, while Ben Kline, Adrian Amos, Devin Pryor, Jordan Hill and Jesse Della Valle each grabbed interceptions.

Allen Robinson led the team with 87 receiving yards, while Matt Lehman and Christian Kuntz each caught touchdown passes. Star tailback Silas Redd did not play.

Cornerback Stephon Morris and center Matt Stankiewitch were named the team's most improved defensive and offensive players of the spring.

"I felt it was pretty good, and I think it was exciting for the fans at times," O'Brien said of the spring game. "I'm not saying it was the most exciting game in the world, but I said it wasn't going to be the most exciting game in the world. But again, it was great to see all the fans out there, and I think it was a good day for Penn State football."



Friday, 11/28
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